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Leave a Legacy

RSS By: Kevin Spafford, Legacy Project

Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project.  He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.

"Trouble Is Opportunity in Work Clothes"

Oct 09, 2013

iStock Farmers HandshakeFrom Legacy Moment (10.04.2013).
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While reading a news article about the average age of a farmer and the need for new blood ("Aging Farmers Face Uncertain Future" by Sylvia Carignan from Gazette.Net), my mind quickly jumps to several issues and questions. The issues involve symptoms and causes which, if debated, will not bring us a single step closer to solutions. The questions might allow us to examine the problem, if it is one, and then take corrective action.


The article says, due to the age, suburban encroachment, regulations, costs and a lack of experienced successors, some families and owners are looking toward uncertain futures. Carignan refers to a Montgomery County business group, Farming at Metro's Edge, that reports, "Attracting new individuals into the farming profession, and training them in ever-changing local, state and federal regulations is a challenge."

Although written to highlight difficulties, the circumstance shouts of overwhelming opportunity. So consider the following questions.

  • Don't aging farmers need a retirement plan (financial security) with a well-prepared next generation (leadership development) to follow in their footsteps –succession planning 101?
  • Although not ideal for "big ag," doesn't a small farm producing local fare, adjacent to a metropolitan area, have some incredible inherent advantages – see local food movement?
  • With or without a struggling economy, isn't there a backlog of well-educated potential farmers looking for opportunities to partner with an experienced farmer for mentoring, career and ownership opportunities - see John Baker at Iowa State University?
  • Who said, "Trouble is only opportunity in work clothes"? (Henry J. Kaiser [1882-1967], the American industrialist who founded Kaiser Aluminum, Kaiser Steel and Kaiser Permanente.)

Although I don't profess to have all the answers, the right questions should help us find solutions. It's up to us to create plans and devise solutions that address real problems. All of these issues—aging, urban encroachment, consumer buying trends, increasing costs and untoward regulation—are expected. Anticipating the expected is relatively simple. What have you done about succession planning? Go to Ask Kevin and let me know.

News & Resources for You: 

Aging Farmers Face Uncertain Future (Sylvia Carignan for Maryland Community News)

The Dell family, also of Maryland, "view farming near a city as an opportunity, not an obstacle."

Is eLegacyConnect right for you? To help you determine your readiness to begin the succession planning process, take a free online assessment.Legacy 20Pioneer 20DuPont 20Attribution 202012




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